21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act HR 6320 Introduced

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21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act HR 6320 Introduced

Jan 1 2008

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is being introduced TODAY in the House of Representatives with bipartisan sponsorship by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Heather Wilson (R-NM).  Hearing Loss Association of American is one of over 200 organizations that are part of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT). We strongly support the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.


Call or fax today to encourage your member of Congress to become a sponsor of this bill.

The top priority today is to get the support of members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which must be the first to pass the bill. Your calls and faxes are needed! 

Please contact them today if you can; if not, within the next week.  We've already had hearings with this committee, so members should have basic knowledge of the need for this bill.

If you don’t have a representative sitting on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, you can still encourage your local representative to sign on at any time, the sooner the better. If you want to contact to your own Congressional representative, and are not sure who it is, click on the following:  https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtml   This will take you to a link that allows you to send a note to that individual.

When you contact your representative, mention why this is important to you: e.g. you, a friend, a family member, neighbor, co-worker, etc. needs the accessibility protections it will provide, many of which we once had and are now in danger of losing.

Give an example or two such as: no video news reports with captions on the web, the critical need for technology for individuals who are deaf and blind, ensuring that phone-type products for the internet are hearing aid compatible.

The message is:  We need this bill so that we are not left behind as technologies continue to advance.  We want the same access to video programming and communications as everyone else has.  Please support this law to bring the laws protecting access by people with disabilities into the 21st Century.

For more background, visit the COAT website: www.coataccess.org or contact the HLAA Director of Public Policy.


21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2008

HR 6320


  • Requires access to phone-type equipment and services used over the Internet

Current law:  Section 255 of the Communications Act only requires access to telecommunications product and services

  • Adds improved accountability and enforcement measures for accessibility, including a clearinghouse, outreach, and reporting obligations by providers and manufacturers
  • Requires phone-type products used with the Internet to be hearing aid compatible (HAC)

Current law:  HAC is required on all wireline and many wireless phones

  • Allows use of Lifeline and Link-up universal service funds (USF) for broadband services

Current law:  Discounts are only available for products, services on telephone network

  • Allocates up to $10 million/year from USF for equipment used by people who are deaf-blind
  • Requires support for real-time text data transmissions to facilitate access to next generation 9-1-1 systems by people with hearing loss
  • Clarifies scope of relay services to include calls between and among people with disabilities  and requires Internet-enabled service providers to contribute to the interstate relay fund

Current law:  interpreted by FCC to only cover calls between people with disabilities and people without disabilities; only PSTN-based and VoIP service providers must contribute VIDEO PROGRAMMING ACCESS

  • Requires closed captioning decoder circuitry in all video programming devices, including PDAs, computers, iPods, cell phones, DVD players, TIVO devices and battery-operated TVs

Current law:  Decoder circuitry is only required on TVs with screens at least 13 inches

  • Extends closed captioning obligations to television-type video programming distributed over the Internet:  covers web-based video services that offer previously shown television programs  and live video streaming that would otherwise be covered by the FCC’s captioning rules

Current law:  Closed captions required on most televised analog and digital broadcast, cable and satellite TV shows

  • Requires easy access to user interfaces (controls) on video programming devices by people with disabilities, including audio output for people who are blind and visually impaired and one-button access on remote controls to closed captioning and video description functions
  • Restores FCC’s video description rules and applies them to digital programming
  • Requires access to televised emergency information via audio output for on-screen text by people who are blind or visually impaired
  • Requires audio access to on-screen program selection menus displayed on video programming devices for people who are blind or visually impaired